An interview with SLI scholar Helen (John Handley High School ’25), pictured with fellow SLI scholar Tatiana (left) and SLI program director and Latinos Unidos club advisor Ileana Escalante.
What are some things you enjoy about school?
My favorite subject is history, learning why everything is the way it is now, and how history repeats itself. We see what happened back then happening now. I also like chemistry. Even though I can sometimes struggle a little bit, it’s interesting. I’m in three clubs – Interact, Latinos Unidos, and SLI – and I think they’re very fun, mostly when we’re working with organizations and doing community service.
What are your big-picture dreams for after high school?
I definitely want to go to college. I don’t know where, but hopefully somewhere a little close to home, where I can find out who I am, and independence.
There are a lot of things that interest me, like the medical field. I don’t know if I want to be a pediatrician, or if I want to be a dentist. I also recently went on a field trip to read with little kids in elementary school, and I’ve always had this inside feeling of wanting to be a primary school teacher. It was like, “Maybe this is what I’m meant to do.”
My mom was the first in the whole family to go to college, in El Salvador. She and her family worked so hard for her to be able to go to college. My grandma had 11 kids, and so it was a huge household to run, and they weren’t very wealthy, so they kind of had to make their way. She talks about how if you wanted to go outside and play, even if you wanted to go out with your friends to do homework, you first had to make tortillas, you had to cook, and clean.
My mom got very lucky with scholarships and got the opportunity to go college, and she became a teacher. In moving to the U.S. she sacrificed her diploma and her education and now she’s working like someone who never went to college, and that’s very touching to me. The fact that she gave up her hard work and education so that my brother and I could have the advantages and opportunities that she never had, has played a big role in who I am and who I want to become.
I strive to be like her in a way. It’s a lot of pressure, because since she’s a teacher, she and my dad are very involved with my school and are strict about my grades.
What do you appreciate about SLI?
Being involved with SLI, Latinos Unidos, and other clubs, and being around different kinds of people, is very comforting. You’re never going to be scared to speak your mind or reach out because you know that they’ll understand you, and you know that they have gone through the same, or similar things, and so it’s very comforting. And you just feel welcomed and included.
It’s always good vibes, good energy. We’re always celebrating something. There’s hope out there. That’s the most important thing.